Student body president Andy Hurtig, senior in accounting, and other K-State students presented the topic of poor living conditions for students in Manhattan rental properties at the City Commission meeting Tuesday night.
Hurtig addressed the issue of student tenant complaints, mentioning that students are not aware of their rights as tenants.
“It’s come to our attention that student housing has become a serious point of concern across our student body,” Hurtig said. “Some students or other renters are living in very deplorable conditions, oftentimes can be a health, safety or other safety hazards.”
He brought forward the idea of reintroducing a rental inspection program in Manhattan.
“We also understand that regional locations such as Lawrence, Kansas, Columbia, Missouri, Wichita, Kansas and Wyandotte County either have a program or are actively researching something like that,” Hurtig said.
Patrick Kennedy, junior in finance and director of local relations for SGA, said that student government passed a resolution in favor of slowly reintroducing a mandatory rental inspection program that would revolve around informing students of their rights.
“Right now, there’s a huge disconnect between what tenants think their rights are, the lack of knowledge that’s there,” Kennedy said. “A lot of our students don’t know what power they do have. They feel like they’re an inconvenience to their landlords, when actually it’s more of a safety concern.”
Joe Tinker, student body vice president and senior in psychology, said the issue was a personal one for him.
“This summer, my roommates and I moved into a four bedroom house on Kearney Street,” Tinker said. “Shortly after we moved in, we noticed there were several issues with the house that made it unsafe to live in, such as a lack of fire detectors, multi bathrooms, exposed electrical wiring, insufficient egress steps and a failing foundation wall.”
Tinker said that he and his roommates called city officials after they felt their landlord did not address the safety concerns.
“We decided to get the city involved with an inspection that outlined over a dozen violations, most of which still haven’t been corrected,” Tinker said. “The entire process has been a profound inconvenience that could have been avoided if the rental property had been kept up in the first place.”
Jackie Hartman, chief of staff and director of community relations for K-State, said that the university receives about 150 complaints from students about off-campus housing each year.
“Most of the issues surround maintenance,” Hartman said. “There’s a problem right now.”
Hartman said a group of student recently complained about the condition of their housing and a vermin problem.
“Three young ladies, who are K-State students, who have three raccoons living with them,” Hartman said. “They have come through the roof. There was a trap put on the roof by the landlord and the roof was so weak that the trap fell through and the raccoons are there, crawling up the curtains.”
Commissioner Wynn Butler said that student housing issues have been a concern since 1979. Although the city once had a rental inspection program, it has been repealed.
“I’m personally not a fan of rental inspection programs,” Butler said. “I don’t even like the term. And if you use that (term), it’s going to scare a lot of people.”
Butler said although he is not in favor of rental inspections, he does like the idea of educating students about their rights as tenants.
“What I’m for is a rental education program,” Butler said. “I believe that’s the way to go.”